NZ quicks using height well - Kulasekara
Height has been the key to the New Zealand fast bowlers' success at P Sara Oval, Sri Lanka seamer Nuwan Kulasekara said, as his team faces a steep climb to prevent the visitors from leveling the two-Test series. New Zealand set a target of 363, and four wickets late on day four have ensured victory is all but impossible for Sri Lanka, and even a draw is unlikely.
"They have the height and that's one reason they are able to get good bounce," Kulasekara said of New Zealand's quicks. "They swung the ball well and they have bowled very good lines and lengths as well. Most of the dismissals went to their fast bowlers and they are getting the rewards for bowling good channels and bowling fast."
New Zealand's fast bowlers have skittled Sri Lanka's top order in three out of four innings in this series, with the only exception being the 92-run chase in Galle, where the visitors took the field without their spearhead Tim Southee, who was resting a groin strain.
In the other innings, New Zealand had Sri Lanka 50 for 5, 12 for 3 and 46 for 4. Both New Zealand's opening bowlers, Southee and Trent Boult, have found appreciable, sometimes dramatic, swing in the air, while all three of their seam bowlers have also achieved good bounce, particularly in Colombo. Sri Lanka's seam pairing of Kulasekara and Shaminda Eranga have been mediocre in comparison, taking 5 wickets for 253 runs between them, and rarely troubling the opposition batsmen with movement or bounce.
While New Zealand attacked with their fast bowlers, who have all but one of the 14 Sri Lankan wickets to fall in this match, Sri Lanka relied on the left-arm spin of Rangana Herath for penetration. He narrowly missed out on his second ten-wicket match haul, when New Zealand declared their second innings closed at 194 for 9. Herath finished with 9 for 170 from the match, taking his tally to 20 wickets.
"For our seam bowlers it is different, because Rangana is our strike weapon. Our job is to support him," Kulasekara said. Thilan Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews were at the crease at stumps on day four, with Sri Lanka needing 316 for victory. Kulasekara said the team was confident of batting out the day to protect their series lead, but that it would be a tough day, with Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan all having been dismissed.
"We are facing a tall order after losing four wickets, and we have to take it session by session tomorrow. The wicket is slow now, but if Thilan and Angelo get a partnership going, we'll be able to save the game. Tomorrow the ball will swing in the morning and we need to bat well in the first session. If we are able to do that we will be able to see a good Test match."
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent